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Gandalf the Grey Got Me into Wheeling

I learned how to drive in a fish bowl. A single-cab silver stallion with the power of 110 small dogs, a wallet-shattering fuel economy and bench seat so comfortable you’d never need a chiropractor again. This hunk of pure sex appeal was my first vehicle: a 2004 Toyota Tacoma whose name was Gandalf the Grey.



Driving was never comfortable for me. As an anxious and unconfident teenager with a parent who passed away in an automotive accident, one does not simply crank the truck and cruise down the street. It took years of merging miles in advance, parking lot door dings and straight up hours behind the wheel for me to look past my truck as a means of transportation and to see it as a beacon of freedom to emotional bliss.


Years went by and I found myself embracing this image of the friend who never had enough seats but windows down and heat blasting on a fall day made up for it. I liked feeling unique. I liked feeling safe. I liked feeling that my hours spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic weren’t a waste. The idea that I would drive, or could drive, anything else was laughable.

And with as much bitter sweetness as one could fathom, it was my introduction to wheeling that ignited the concept that maybe I was outgrowing Gandalf, my tried-and-true truck. Grocery trips were becoming more and more inconvenient. I couldn’t safely transport both of our dogs at the same time. And when I saw the absolute freedom a 4x4 could grant me, I knew my little 2-wheel drive, lighter-than-a-Mazda grandpa mobile was probably not the best investment.


On March 18, 2020, I shook hands with the man who purchased my truck to give his daughter as her first car. The same way I was gifted the truck. Tears streamed down my face as I watched him drive off, and as I seriously considered running after him, I saw it—probably the only vehicle that could replace (no, not replace but enhance) my daily commuter and soon-to-be Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote. And that right there would be my 2004 LX 470, baby!



It wasn’t love at first sight, because come on, how can you compare anything to my sweet baby Tacoma? It wasn’t until we took the LX on its first wheeling trip that I realized this was going to be a huge problem for me. I was hooked. I felt alive. I felt like I could literally drop everything and just drive into vast openness and see the world. I wasn’t a passenger anymore. I was the driver of a truck that could drive up rocks like it was my driveway. I was the driver of a truck that, with second- and third-row seats out, I could live in when out in the wilderness for days, weeks even. I was the driver of a truck that, little did I know, would transport me to some of the best memories of my life.


What sealed the deal was my connection to wheeling with Caley. You don’t really know true friendship until you’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets, shared the most hilarious stories, and literally traveled together through thick and thin. We bonded over frustrations with our husbands who only ever wanted to take the hard line. We connected over our love for being outside, rain or shine. And probably most importantly, she taught me to slow down and appreciate where I am. Because life is beautiful and it’s never that serious.


My truck gets me out of cell service long enough to forget why I was angry. My truck lets me follow my best friend down trails that will end with the coolest waterfall. And my truck gives me the confidence to discover the most breathtaking experiences. I never thought I would feel confident behind the wheel of anything other than a fish bowl with a full peripheral view, but as I meal prep and check inventory in preparation for our third trip to Moab, I am unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to own such a truck. Gandalf taught me to trust in myself as a driver, but Legolas, my LX 470, is the chariot to my future.



MOD LIST:

  • AHC lift + Japan4x4 Brackets and various supporting mods: LC Torsion Bars, 80 springs, etc.

  • 555 Inner/outer tie rods

  • Method 701’s (17x8.5 ET +0)

  • 295/70R17 Cooper STT Pros

  • Sliders and skids coming soon.

Oh yeah, and it has a backup camera.



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